Snow Days, Delays, and Early Dismissals

[box]by: Dr. Robert E. Cronin, Ph.D. / Superintendent of Schools[/box]

Dear Parents and Guardians,

Well, like it or not, it’s that time of year again. As we begin to enter the winter season, I thought this would be a good time to explain how decisions to cancel, delay, or dismiss school early are made and then how the decision reaches all of you. As this is the first winter we’ve worked together it seemed to be the right time to explain the decision making process.

The easiest calls to make are those resulting from a snow or ice storm that begins in the evening or in the middle of the night, and continues into the next day. Typically there is no question that buses will not be able to run.  In those instances, I speak with the district’s meteorologist sometime between 8:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. when he provides me with the most recent data on the track of the storm, along with his understanding of what that will mean for the morning. He contacts me again between 4:00 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. the next morning when we review the current conditions.

Based on that information, along with conversations with Grant Peckham, Supervisor of Grounds and Maintenance, North Haven’s Public Works Dept., the North Haven Police Dept., and the district’s bus company, I try to make the decision by 5:00 a.m. whether to close school or remain open.

Sometimes, when the decision is less obvious, it may take a bit longer to make. In those cases, a decision may not be reached until sometime between 5:15 a.m. and 5:30 a.m.

Once the decision is made, we will get a message out through our “Alert Now” systems and administrators contact all local television and radio stations to announce the closing.  The school closing is also posted on our district web-site.

When a storm stops during the evening or in the early hours of the morning, decisions about closing school or delaying the opening are really dependent upon what the police and Public Works Dept. advise us. Depending on the intensity of the storm, delaying the opening a few hours allows the custodial staff at the buildings the opportunity to clear sidewalks and parking lots surrounding the schools. A delayed opening provides the road crews more time to clear streets with fewer cars and buses on the roads. Typically, delayed openings are between ninety minutes and two hours in length.  This is done to give road crews, custodians, and bus drivers extra time to ensure student safety.

The most difficult call is one involving an early dismissal. Storms predicted to start during the school day are the most challenging. Typically, for transportation purposes, decisions about early dismissal need to be made by 11:00 a.m. Word of the closing of school is posted on our web-site, announced on local television and radio stations, and an “Alert Now” call is made to all participating families.

When deciding whether or not to close school early, I am in frequent contact with the meteorologist, the Public Works Dept., and the North Haven Police Department. If it seems that the storm will end in advance of dismissal, I may continue on with business as usual because to do otherwise would put buses on the road at the height of the storm, before clean-up efforts have even started.

If it does not appear that the storm is going to let up, we try to move dismissal along as quickly as possible beginning with the high school.  We begin dismissal with the older students because they are the care-givers in families where both parents are employed outside of the home.

The act of calling off school due to inclement weather is both a science and an art.  Considerable effort goes into making the decision.  It is always my intent to err on the side of safety, but parents are also encouraged to use their own good judgment.  If there is a concern about safety, please consider keeping your child(ren) home or picking them up early.  We want to work with you to ensure the safety of all students attending the North Haven Public Schools.

As always, thank you for your cooperation and continued support.  Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions and concerns.

Happy Winter!

Dr. Robert E. Cronin, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools

Posted by Chris

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